Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for an incarcerated felon, alleging that he killed Chandra Levy, the Washington intern murdered in 2001 whose disappearance and death became one of the nation's most famous cold cases.
Documents filed as part of the case also claim that the suspect, Ingmar Guandique, plotted a prison escape during which he would kill the detectives there to arrest him.
Guandique, 27, has been in custody since approximately July 2001 for two nonfatal attacks on women in Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., the same park where a hiker discovered Levy's remains in 2002.
U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said that a judge signed a first-degree murder arrest warrant for Guandique, who is originally from El Salvador, earlier today. According to the criminal complaint filed in the case, Guandique, "in perpetrating and attempting to perpetrate the crime of first degree sexual abuse, killed Chandra Levy by inflicting injuries from which [she] died on or about May 1, 2001."
The affidavit claims that, based on evidence found at the alleged murder scene, Levy was "apparently subdued. Given that her shoes were unlaced, her clothing turned inside out, and her tights knotted into restraints, it appears that Guandique wanted Ms. Levy naked and incapacitated."
"The evidence clearly demonstrates that this crime was not a simple robbery," it continued.
If tried and convicted on the murder charge, Guandique would face a mandatory minimum 30 years in prison. Taylor said he expects that Guandique will be transferred back to Washington within the next two months to make an initial appearance in court.
The affidavit includes information from several witnesses, including two other women assaulted by Guandique and several others who said he admitted killing Levy.
"Over the intervening years, additional evidence came to our attention, people came forward and in weighing that evidence, analyzing it… we are confident at this point that it is appropriate to charge Guandique with that murder," Taylor said.
One witness, apparently a fellow inmate, but identified only as "W11," said that upon hearing a recent radio report about his imminent arrest, Guandique "became very anxious and said something to the effect of, 'f---, it's over. They got me now. What am I gonna do?'"
The witness claimed that Guandique then hatched an elaborate escape plot and threatened to kill the detectives who planned to arrest him.
A Feb. 26 search of his cell turned up the materials he allegedly said he'd use to carry out the plan, the complaint said.
The court documents also stated that in an earlier search of his cell, in September 2008, investigators turned up an apparent magazine photo of Levy.
Asked about witnesses cited in the complaint who claimed that Guandique said he was with two others when he allegedly attacked Levy, Taylor declined to comment further, saying the investigation is ongoing and that authorities will follow the evidence where it leads.
"Today marks a significant step forward in our efforts to bring some sense of closure and justice to the parents of Chandra Levy. And of course, our thoughts and prayers are with them today," Taylor said.
But he admitted that cold cases "oftentimes take a long time to put together."
"I don't need to tell anyone here," he told the gathered press, "but the cases aren't always the way they are on TV where at the end of 60 minutes, there's a tidy piece of evidence… that cracks the case. Here, it was just the hard police work over the years, putting together different pieces of evidence."
Late last month, authorities indicated that their focus had narrowed to Guandique, who is eligible for parole in 2011. Investigators had ramped up their efforts in an attempt to secure charges against Guandique before his potential release from prison.
Levy's disappearance dominated headlines for weeks after it was revealed that the 24-year-old woman had been having an affair with then-California congressman Gary Condit.
Suspicion swirled around the Democrat, but Taylor said today that authorities believe that Levy "was a random victim of Guandique, who allegedly attacked and killed her as she walked or jogged" through the park.
The cloud hung over Condit for years and the scandal was widely considered the reason he lost his seat in Congress.
"For the Levy family, we are glad they are finally getting the answers they deserve. For my family, I am glad that their years of standing together in the face of such adversity have finally led to the truth," Condit told Washington, D.C., ABC News affiliate WJLA last month.
"It is unfortunate that an insatiable appetite for sensationalism blocked so many from searching for the real answers for so long. I had always hoped to have the opportunity to tell my side of this story, but too many were not prepared to listen. Now I plan to do so, but I will have no further comments on this story at this time," he said.
Condit, who now lives in Arizona, is believed to be mulling a book project.
Guandique attacked a woman two weeks after Levy's disappearance in the middle of May 2001 and another in July. The women were jogging in Rock Creek Park when he "clotheslined" them and dragged them down a hill.
Both women escaped and identified Guandique, who ultimately was caught and pleaded guilty. He's slated for release in 2010 after he finishes a 10-year sentence, which he is serving at the U.S. Penitentiary-Victorville in Adelanto, Calif.
Guandique was the focus of the last three parts of a 12-part series on Levy's disappearance in the Washington Post last year. He told the Post then that he had nothing to do with Levy's disappearance:
"Regarding the case of the girl, Chandra Levy: I don't know anything about that case. In 2001, the FBI went to see me when I was in the [D.C. jail]. That was when I learned about that girl," Guandique said.
"Before that, I had never seen her and I don't understand the reason why the police started to suspect me. ... I have nothing to do with the death of that girl. I am innocent and I am not afraid of the police investigation."
After the Post series, D.C. and FBI cold-case squad detectives reexamined their evidence. The problem had always been a lack of conclusive physical evidence to tie Guandique to the murder.